Aromatherapy Activity Ideas for Senior Facilities

aromatherapy activitiesAromatherapy, a complimentary therapy that uses essential oils from plants or flowers, has been used for centuries by those wanting to improve a person’s well-being. Because the effectiveness of aromatherapy is wide-ranging, the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health only recognizes the therapy as a “complementary health approach.” Today, more and more nursing facilities are adding aromatherapy as a supplement to their traditional therapies of healing. Here are a few ideas from for implementing aromatherapy activities within your nursing facility. These can help your residents with pain, tiredness, lack of appetite, anxiety, and general well-being.

Alleviating Pain

aromatherapy essential oils

With pain being a top concern for seniors in nursing facilities, caretakers can use essential oil massages as a way to help alleviate their residents’ aches and discomfort. One way is to provide gentle massages by adding a few drops of essential oils to lotion before applying to the skin.

Aromatherapy compresses can also be used to help with pain. Simply add a few drops of essential oil to a small bucket of water before submerging a cotton cloth. After the cloth has been saturated with the oil-infused water, wring out the cloth and apply it as a compress to the sore area.

A third option for pain is to use essential oils to relieve dry, cracked hands and feet. Accomplish this by adding a few drops of essential oil to coconut oil. Then rub the thick coconut oil onto the affected areas to reduce the dryness.

Essential oils that may be helpful for alleviating pain and easing the mind include peppermint for cooling relief, lavender for muscle relaxation, and citrus and lemon for a refreshing feeling.


aromatherapy holistic

Keep your residents awake and energized throughout the day by providing rejuvenating oils in the air. Use a diffuser to directly emit invigorating aromas into your facility’s common areas. In addition, use aromatic spritzers to apply directly onto fabrics like linen, curtains, or even residents’ clothes.

To get residents up and moving in the mornings, consider using fragrant soaps for your residents’ showers or baths. Make your own aromatic soap using a soap making kit that includes different fragrances that can be added to the soap. If soap-making is not an option, try using a washcloth during bathing that has been soaked in oil-infused water.

Keep your residents up throughout the day by making essential oil perfumes and colognes for them to wear. Grab an easy-to-make perfume recipe online and mix together several oils to create the invigorating scents.

Essential oils that are known for their energizing properties and mental stimulation include nutmeg, ginger, eucalyptus, and peppermint.

Lack of Appetite & Energyaromatherapy oils

Get your residents interested in eating again by providing aromatic therapies that stimulate their appetite. For instance, wash cloth napkins in laundry detergent that has been infused with citrus, eucalyptus, and lavendar essential oils. Then each time your residents wipe their mouths, they will smell the oil, which may encourage them to keep eating. Also, before mealtime give hand massages to residents using oil-infused lotion so that residents constantly smell the stimulating oil each time they move their hands around their face.

In addition, make lip balm for residents to wear before mealtime that can increase their appetite. Use a lip balm kit and add in fragrances that encourage residents to eat. Pass out sugar-free mints to residents an hour before their meals to help whet their appetites.

Essential oils that may be helpful with stimulating appetite and increase energy include citrus, lavendar, and eucalyptus.


aromatherapy oil

Try to eliminate or to at least reduce the anxiety some residents with dementia experience by using essential oils that promote calm and serenity. For instance, host fun spa days for your residents where you can offer them relaxing hand massages using scented lotion or soothing foot baths. Use a bath fizz kit to make bath tablets to have on hand to use for your impromptu spa treatments.

In addition, maintain a long-lasting essential oil diffuser during the afternoons in a common area to relax your facility’s “sundowners” who can get agitated and confused as evening approaches. Finally, for your fidgety residents, add a few drops of essential oils into air-dry clay or Play-Doh to help residents calm down and relax each time they manipulate the clay.

Essential oils that may reduce anxiety include lavender for relaxation, chamomile for calming, and rosemary for stress relief.

General Well-Being

aromatherapy seniors

Keep residents feeling good all the time with a few simple tips to keep therapeutic aromas in the air. For instance, use these roll on essential oils on dust rags and cleaning cloths as you wipe down the furniture in your facility’s common areas and in your residents’ rooms. In addition, be sure to wipe down the seats in your facility’s bus with calming essential oils, like lavender oil, to provide more relaxing rides for your residents. Furthermore, add a few cotton balls that are dabbed with essential oils to your vacuum cleaner to add the healing scents throughout your facility.

Finally, don’t forget to incorporate essential oils directly into your craft activities. For example, recruit residents to assist with making hanging craft ornaments and craft pillows that can easily be sprayed with aromatic spritzer and placed throughout your facility.

Essential oils that may be beneficial for general well-being include lavender, lemongrass, and peppermint.

Want even more ideas and information about Aromatherapy? Check out our new online Professional Development course called Introduction to Aromatherapy for Health Care, where you will learn how to use essential oils to support health and wellness.

About Not Just Bingo:

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Not Just Bingo is an online resource of fun, senior activity ideas for activity professionals of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. They have been providing fun activity ideas online since 2009, and continue to assist activity professionals across the country by creating meaningful and engaging activity ideas for their residents that go “beyond bingo.” Not Just Bingo feels privileged to help activity directors better the living experiences of their residents while demonstrating that a senior’s quality of life can actually improve when they move to a nursing facility!


Want even more ideas each month? Visit for how-to activity ideas, monthly newsletters, and daily holiday ideas. You can also sign up for the Notjustbingo Membership to receive specialized activity ideas to keep your residents and staff engaged, active, and having fun!

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1 thought on “Aromatherapy Activity Ideas for Senior Facilities

  1. Thank you for this article; olfactory stimulus can be helpful for a variety of reasons. However, please use caution. 1) Some people are very allergic or sensitive to synthetic fragrances and may be to pure essential oils as well. **It can be very difficult for these people to avoid scent particles. The particles linger in the air and on surfaces (e.g. furniture, carpet, skin, hair, clothes) after the source is removed. Consider that these people are already assaulted daily with fragrance particles coming from the people around them (personal care products, laundry products, etc.) 2) Essential oils may interfere with an individual’s homeopathic remedies. –Thanks for taking these needs into consideration.

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